Fri, 25 Apr 2003

Seven years demanded for self-confessed cannibal

Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Purbalingga, Central Java

Onlookers packed the Purbalingga District Court on Thursday to witness the opening session of the trial of a man who confessed to eating human flesh. Prosecutors, however, charged him only with stealing corpses in the absence of a law against cannibalism.

If found guilty, the 31-year-old Sumanto could be sent to jail for seven years. This is the maximum penalty for theft with violence under article 363 of the Criminal Code, the article with which prosecutors have charged the self-confessed cannibal.

Sumanto shocked Indonesians last January when he admitted to having eaten at least three human corpses to gain supernatural powers.

Police arrested him in January after he stole the body of 80- year-old Rina and ate it. He later admitted to have eaten two men who attempted to rob him on separate occasions. No murder charges, however, were laid against him.

Sumanto said that when eating human flesh, he cooked it, charred it, fried it and sometimes ate it raw. The cannibal also admitted to eating cats, dogs, rats and snakes.

He told the police he wanted to eat seven human bodies to gain supernatural powers.

His defense team has expanded exponentially and already consists of 13 lawyers, with others possibly on the way.

One of the lawyers, Dodi Riosembodo, said he had joined Sumanto's defense team as the case was unique and he felt it would be a challenge.

"We might get a case of somebody stealing a corpse about once every 10 years, but as far as I know there has never been a case in which the corpse was eaten by the thief," he said.

Another of Sumanto's lawyers, Nurcahyo, said the prosecution charges were irrelevant as the defendant was suffering from a psychiatric illness that made him unfit to stand trial.

Police psychiatrists have diagnosed Sumanto as a psychopath but another diagnosis by the Banyumas Hospital found him to be sane.

The trial will resume on next Thursday when Sumanto's lawyers will respond to the prosecutors' charges.